Is a consistent approach to parenting important?


We hear all the time about how important being consistent is to our children – whether that’s being a consistent caregiver that they know or between partners being consistent in our approach to our children. It’s something that comes up time and time again when I’m with my adopter friends. Our children’s need for consistency now they have permanence in their placements can add an extra pressure on us to make sure we are continually at the top of our parenting game as it were. How exhausting that can be sometimes?!

There always seems to be positives and negatives to everything in life. When I talk to my single adopter friends I can see how tiring it must be sometimes to be the only one making the decisions, dealing with children’s behaviour and generally be all things to everyone. However as part of a married couple and when I talk to my other married friends I can also see how difficult it is to have a consistent approach particularly when we don’t agree with each other on issues surrounding the children. There always seems to be a ‘strict’ parent and a ‘more relaxed’ parent. And how we seem to irritate each other because of this.

I remember once when my husband and I were seeing our son’s therapist for a catch up session (usually ending up being a marriage counselling session) and we were talking about this whole area that I’m the more lax parent in our relationship and my husband is the rules maker. Our therapist sat there quietly listening to us moaning about each others approach and how wrong the other one was. She just said at the end – “you know you are both right but just a little bit extreme – it’s actually somewhere in the middle”. Our children do need clear, strong boundaries set that are not set in stone but certainly written pretty clearly for all to see. Then you also need the empathy and understanding that says ok we can move a little bit on that rule today as this child is too stressed to handle that approach. We need the consistency of strength and love combined. I know that sounds a bit twee but it’s true, when I think about my children if they had no rules or boundaries they would run wild. But without the flexibility to change depending on the circumstances there would never be moments of connection and fun together.

I would say in our house we are consistently inconsistent in our approach to our children, but I’m hoping that as they learn that people are different, we can disagree and the world doesn’t fall apart, I hope they will be able to understand that we both consistently want the best for them and we pray that they will take the good parts of both of us and come out with a healthier view of parenting for themselves in the future. Maybe a naive wish and we will continue to try to be consistent with them, but I know because we are so different that at times it won’t happen. It feels like such a battle some times as we’re fighting against an image of parenting they already brought with them from their birth home. As our children were old enough to know what was happening to them they have cognitive memories of their first home and family. The type of parenting they experienced there was consistently unpredictable and that’s something we try to change now – to be as predictable as possible. So even though we may have a different approach to each other our children do know what we will say and do most times – we are predictable at least!

Parenting is such a challenge and also so fulfilling at times – when you can see a child is truly connecting with you or has learnt something that you know only came from you – it’s amazing. I just hope and pray that our children will consistently progress, grow and develop to be all they can be, with ours and others help and support.

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